Hi everyone! I am a newcomer to these forums, but hugely enjoying reading the posts. I wondered if anyone here has tried rerouting a small creek or stream on your property. We have a seasonal spring-fed creek that runs pretty much straight down to the river (the creek is very small, maybe 2' at widest). I am considering trying to introduce a large meander, so that it begins/ends at the same points but runs in more of a "C" shape to go through the site of our planned orchard. I think the grading of the land will cooperate, but I'm not sure about the soil (it's very sandy) and/or possible regulatory issues? Just at the brainstorming phase for now, so I'd really appreciate your thoughts!
I am pretty straight laced, very conservative, and even attend church regularly, but I have been dragged to court a few times, and Destruction of Wetlands was one such reason. I would be VERY leery about doing anything regarding "altering the course of a stream" I can tell you that personally.
And that was many years ago.
This past winter it got even worse. Because of the Supreme Court Ruling that now allows the Army Corp of Engineers to get involved with ANY waterway and not just navigable waters as before, you can not only be fined by the State Dept of Environmental Protection, The EPA...you can add an additional fine by the Army Corp of Engineers. None of this makes any sense either. While it is 100% legal to clear cut wood in an area to be determined to be a wetland, bulldoze stumps to make logging roads anywhere through it, or drive equipment through the mud; if used for agriculture purposes (and this includes permiculture) we are subject to fines under the 1985 Farm Bill that makes it illegal to cultivate crops in wetland. Its unofficially called the Swampbuster Act.
It is unbelievably filled with bureaucracy and subject to the determination of just a few people in power.
I ran into this issue again just two weeks ago when an area on my farm was determined to be a forest wetland (no stream). The guy making the determination made some assessments that were not correct, and in short its not due to the soil or vegetation that the area is wet, but rather because ledgerock sits just under the surface. Water always sits atop ledge rock. He said ledgerock was down 15 feet or more, but in actuality it was about 3 inches down I found out when I dozed a stump out of the ground. (Allowed because it was in the construction of a logging road). I could file an appeal, but if it comes back as wetland again, I not only have to pay for the filing fee, I have to pay for the Federal Government's legal fees.
So it is kind of like this; one or two guys in the state can make the determination if an area is wetland or not. You can appeal the decision, BUT your going to pay royally if you are determined to be wrong again. And the 1992 Farm Act prevents 3rd party's from making determinations so guess who will make that determination again? Then if anything is disturbed (if you grow food as logging is acceptable), you can be fined by 3 environmental agencies. As I said it makes no sense.
You did not go into great detail with what you want to do, but it is very possible you would be in violation of the swampbuster act.
I personally would never alter any natural water course. What you may want to explore is capturing as much water via runoff catchment ponds (sounds like you have some roll to your land) hugels, improve the organic matter in your sandy soil. What has happened to us, when employing a variety of techniques to hold water (aka rain) on your land as long as possible is that our seasonal springs now run 12 months a year and there have been almost a dozen new springs bubble up. I have had to work the the Corp. of Engineers and you do not want to cross them. Even installing a run off catchment pond(s) is a major headache and I battled with them for over a year to get a few ponds put in. What I can pass along is that runoff catchment ponds with a surface less than .10 acres does not need their OK. Maybe you could explore putting in some "pocket" ponds to use to water your orchard. We use that technique very effectively.
Beavers? Let them alter it for you! The MAN can't legislate and regulate a beaver from doing what he naturally wants to do. They are the most amazing hydrological engineers ever.
Can you buy a family of beavers on Amazon?
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
I am back to belatedly thank you all for these very helpful replies! I was vaguely aware that there were probably some relevant regulatory issues, but all the specifics here are VERY helpful info and have dissuaded me from trying anything too dramatic in the immediate future. My daydream of a pretty little creek running through the orchard will have to remain a daydream... sigh. Marianne, I have just installed some hugels, though not in the area of the orchard--but they are doing great so far! The orchard is not a huge area--we will probably end up with a couple dozen trees max--so it may be possible to do some small "fishscale" swales to help hold the water. We are also working hard on adding organic matter to the soil, but it is slow going so far. I have done more intensive sheet mulching in my zone 1 garden beds, but will probably just put some cover crop out in the orchard section because it is too big to realistically sheet mulch the whole thing by myself. I am just getting started and have big plans but also trying to not tackle TOO many things at once!
Thank you all again so much! I am so happy to have found this website.
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